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Easy travel hack: use Google Maps to plan a trip

Easy travel hack- use Google Maps to plan a trip header
Easy travel hack- use Google Maps to plan a trip

Every one of my trips starts with a list. For a long time, it was a mental list of stuff I saw when reading or surfing through Instagram for inspiration. Alternatively, the list was composed of bits of paper scattered everywhere, meaning a whole swath of great ideas could just disappear if I wasn’t paying attention to what I was throwing away.

Either way, I usually ended up missing some good stuff that I just totally forgot about.

Recently, though, I’ve begun to reduce the sheer clutter and hodgepodge of information I usually stuff into my brain/bag. I’ve turned to an online option that seems underutilized for how wildly helpful it can be: Google Maps ‘My Maps’.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to use Google Maps to plan a trip. You can easily create a highly customizable, easily searchable map for your next adventure.

How to use Google Maps to plan a trip

  1. Go to Google Maps and click on ‘My Places’.
  2. Head over to the ‘Maps’ and click ‘Create Map’ at the bottom of the page.
  3. Once there, you can search for the places on your list. They’ll pop up – click ‘Add to list’. You can edit the description with hours or other information you might have jotted down earlier.
  4. If you have a lot of points, I’d suggest creating layers such as restaurants, bars, museums, or whatever else you’re interested in.
  5. For extra ease, I like to change each layer’s pinpoint colors so it’s easy to see what category is nearby without having to search. (Do this by clicking on the paint bucket at the lower right of each info pop-up). You can also change the icon in the same menu.
  6. If you want to share your map, simply click the ‘Share’ button, make your map public, and insert the link wherever you’d like!

Bonus! Under the search bar, click on the line with three circles – this will let you create directions! Simply click on one place as your start point (A) and a second place as your end point (B), choose whether you’re walking or driving, and Google will calculate the easiest route between the two. So helpful!

As an example, check out my 2017 Indiana adventure list so far:

Have you ever used Google Maps to travel? Would you consider using one on your next trip?
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Your very own treasure trove of easy travel resolutions for 2017

EASY TRAVEL RESOLUTIONS FOR 2017 header

I, for one, am here to welcome 2017’s arrival with open arms. And chances are you, like me, have some big, over-the-top goals for this year. (Mine? Be completely out of debt – student loans, car payments, ALL OF IT!)

But when you need a little mental break from your big dreams… well, I’d like to give you few easy travel resolutions for 2017 that will make your days a little more adventurous. (Plus, they’re all low-cost so you can meet your budgeting goals and enjoy the world around you!)

Oldenburg Indiana Church

Travel to a “foreign” city in your own state

Last year one of my favorite little treasures was the town of Edinburgh, Indiana. Why did I go there (and subsequently discover an absolutely gorgeous nature preserve)? Simply because I liked the idea that I wasn’t going to the “real” Edinburgh in 2016, so I’d do the next best thing.

On my “foreign” Indiana list? Peru, Angola, Morocco, La Paz, Bristol

Visit at least one odd/offbeat festival

I love festivals – they have the ability to bring a city/neighborhood/street to life in a way that just doesn’t happen normally. I missed out on a bunch of cool ones last year for a variety of reasons (laziness), but this year I’m bound and determined to make it to a few. Especially if they’re free!

After just a few minutes searching, I was able to find Pierogi Fest, the Popcorn Festival, and an amateur circus festival – all in Indiana (err, and Nudes-A-Poppin’ which is pretty much exactly the kind of festival it sounds like).

Madison Indiana Guide: downtown

Try to complete 1-2 travel challenges each month

This is the biggest of my own travel resolutions for 2017! The routine of day-to-day life can really be a drag sometimes, amirite? (I wrote a whole post about combating it last year.) To break up the doldrums, consider completing 1-2 travel challenges each month. They get you up, out of the house, and looking at the places you see every day in a different way!

Looking for ideas? Here are some to get you started!

Plan a camping trip with the company of an adventurous audiobook

Full disclosure: I am not a camping person. I do not own a tent or a sleeping bag or really anything that would make camping feasible. However, I do have a car, blankets, and love for big green spaces. No matter what your “camping” looks like, make a plan to sleep under the stars in 2017 with the company of a book that will make you feel like a world-class explorer.

My recs? A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, or the classic The Hobbit. *(affiliate links)

Plan and execute an urban exploring adventure

I realize it’s not everyone’s dream to climb through a hole in the wall of an abandoned property and get dirty, but I’m here to say: it’s really, really fun. I’ve done a lot of exploring all over the world and have yet to get in (too much) trouble. Armed with a camera and a love of history, you’re in for some treats as you explore parts of the world that once were.

Of course the usual disclaimers: wherever you’re planning to go is probably NOT legally open – explore at your own risk.

Take on a time limit adventure

A time limit adventure is simple: set a time limit, then drive/bike/walk as far as you can in any direction for the duration. My favorite is usually a 45 minute or hour aimless drive through back country roads. You’ll see some new, interesting places and – if you’re really lucky – discover a great place for a bite to eat.

Selfie Butler University

Plan an epic walking tour of your neighborhood

I’ve created several of my own walking tours here on the blog (and even showed you how to make your own tour for fun and/or profit):

Wandering around with some tentative research is one of my favorite ways to get to know a neighborhood better; too often we pass by neat spots if we just whiz by in a car on the daily. One of my own blog goals for 2017 is to create more accessible walking tours for my favorite Indy neighborhoods.

Adventure List Example

Create an ongoing “to-do” travel list

I talked a lot about my adventure list last year, and I still maintain that the best way to add more travel into your daily life is by keeping a log of all the places you want to visit. Without an easily available list of things, I guarantee you’ll find yourself in the same old “ugh, I don’t know what to do” trap we fall into so easily!

Your turn! Shoot: in the comments please give me and Let’s Love Local readers some more awesome travel resolutions for 2017!
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It’s over?!: 2016 in review

Is anyone else finding it really hard to believe 2016 is almost over? I’m sitting here, totally panicking that I’m planning a road trip back to Virginia in just under a week and then immediately heading back to Indy to ring in the new year, Russian style!

I hope I’m not the only one delving deep into both panic and nostalgia this week because here’s the best of 2016 AKA a year where I only left the state three times and managed to have more fun than anyone ought rightfully have without crossing an international border.

Polly in Indy

January

How I’ve Saved for Travel on Any Budget: this was a time when we’d just moved, I’d been working for just under a month, and my husband had yet to find a job. Somehow, we survived and even managed to save. It’s difficult, but possible.

Indy Street Art: Fountain Square

February

Downtown Indianapolis Street Art Walk: if my memory serves me right, it was an unseasonably warm February which made it perfect for exploring all of Indianapolis’ wonderful public art. Seriously, there’s so much here!

March

Let’s Love Local Road Trip Resource Guide: as I began gearing up for late spring/early summer road trips (we finally bought a car!), I compiled a list of all of my favorite tips, tricks, and hacks for making the most out of a long drive.

Downtown St. Louis

April

Weekend Escape STL: my visit to Saint Louis represented the furthest west I’d ever been (aside from California) and it was cool to see a new part of the world. Saint Louis really impressed me – not that I had any real expectations – with its gorgeous public areas, great beer, and thriving culinary scene.

Monon High Bridge in Delphi, Indiana

May

Delphi, Indiana: the Abandoned Monon High Bridge: probably one of my favorite adventures of 2016, simply because the bridge was in such a gorgeous location and the existence of an open abandoned, rickety railroad bridge seems like something out of a story. Delphi is definitely worth the drive.

Early morning adventure Indianapolis

June

How to Use Social Media to Plan Your Next Trip: I’ve taken my trip-planning to the next level in 2016 thanks to a lot of in-depth research about how to better leverage social media. Check out this post and stay tuned for my other tips and tricks in 2017!

Briggs Woods Park

July

Webster City, Iowa Guide: my first trip to Iowa! Webster City was a great introduction to real Midwestern farm county. In other news, tack that on to the bottom of the ‘Places I Never Thought I’d Go’ list.

Madison Indiana Guide: downtown

August

Easy $5 Adventures for Broke Travelers: I’ve said it many times – 2016 was not a big year of travel for me. And that’s totally OK! There’s plenty to do nearby (and on the cheap!), you’ve just got to get creative.

September

Here’s Why Indianapolis is Cool(er Than You Think): imagine any up-and-coming travel/food compilation of 2016 and you’ll probably find Indy or one of its restaurants high on the list. Indy is poised to be a big(ger) tourist destination in 2017 and I’m here to tell you why.

October

An Easy Weekend Vacation Budget Planner: October heralded the start of a new job which once again confined my travels to long weekends. Still, weekend adventures can be fun and – with a proper budget – super affordable!

Fort Wayne Weekend: Karpeles Museum

November

How to Spend 36 Hours in Fort Wayne: November’s highlight was a fortuitous invitation from Visit Fort Wayne to head back up north and see the city I almost froze to death in at the start of this year. Check out how exactly to spend 36 hours in this totally underrated city.

Muncie, Indiana: Elm Street Brewing

December

17 Must Visit Indiana Towns/Cities in 2017: What better way to end the year than by looking forward to what 2017 has in store?

What was your travel highlight of 2016? Share in the comments below!